The Importance of Mentors

Mentor. noun

  1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
  2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.

Every successful author I come in contact with mentions hYoda memeow they wouldn’t be where they are without the aid of someone special. Someone who took the time to bear them up, give them encouragement and advice, and most of all, be an example. I want to talk today about mentors.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” As writers we have many authors that tell us where to go to find the answers. They say things like, “Check out this book, or visit this website.” Sometimes we are fortunate enough to sit in a class with them as they instruct us on the things we should do to better our craft. The best authors—the mentors, take time to not only instruct us but involve us. They are the ones that show they really care. They are the ones we remember years later when we finally make it.

91QXf1iLg8LA month or so ago I was very discouraged in my writing goals. I had books out and I had great reviews and feedback from kids that had read my books, but my publishing goals were not being met. I was struggling and, after years and years of trying, I was ready to call it quits. That is when my mentor, J. Scott Savage, stepped in. Noticing I was lacking my normal oomph he took me out to lunch to “talk shop.” During that luncheon he did what every great mentor does: he encouraged me, taught me from his own bumpy road of success, and showed me I’d be a fool to give up. I left that luncheon feeling more than supported—I felt guided.

Fast forward to just last weekend and I was at a writing conference in Utah called Storymakers. Here my mentor was again trying to help all he could. Not only me but as many writers that would answer his invite. The morning before the Saturday session he set up a donut breakfast in which he provided a hundred delicious donuts, milk and juice, and invited anyone to come and “talk shop” about anything to help them on their writing journey. It was by far one of the best moments I had that weekend.

jack6.000x9.000.inddWith his “Pay it Forward” mentality J. Scott Savage teaches me the type of author I want to be. He is my mentor and I am proud to call him such. I hope that one day when I make my goals as an author I can be this type of mentor to others that are like me now. I encourage aspiring writers to find mentors to help them on their journey. I invite all authors who feel they have something to offer others to help and be a mentor. So many would not be where they are today if someone didn’t take the time to show they cared.

J. Scott Savage is a middle-grade author of several books including the totally-awesome Farworld series, Case Files 13 series, and the newly anticipated series Mysteries of the Cove available this fall. You can find more information on him at http://jscottsavage.com/.

Chicka Chicka vs. Paper Towns

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In a little over a week’s time, I’ll be sitting down to breakfast with hundreds of other authors who write for “children” at the New York City Book Expo of America “Children’s Book & Author Breakfast.”  I am very excited. Nathan Hale and James Patterson will be there, along with many others.

However, I must admit, when my friend said she and her agent wanted to go to the breakfast, I was confused.

“But you write for Young Adults,” I said. “Why do you want to go to eat breakfast with authors who write children’s  books?”

It was then I was reminded that even in one of the most innovative cities in all of the United States books written for someone under the age of 18 are all still classified as a “children’s books.”

Huh?

It’s true. Young Adult, Middle Grade, Chapter book, and picture book authors are typically lumped together in the same category.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I get a chuckle thinking about the authors of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom having a chat over a coffee and bagel with John Green, author of the edgy YA fiction such as Paper Towns. It seems silly to consider them in the same category, but that is what the industry currently does.

Emblazoners, however, is different. We are a group of writers who call attention to the unique needs and interests of the “tween” reader. Emblazoner authors have all published books for those between the ages of 9 to 12—an age that often gets lost in the “children’s books” category.

So if you know someone who has out grown “little kid stories” but who isn’t ready for the edgy material in some Young Adult books, this is the place for you.

Stop. Take a peek around. You’ll find the works of twenty-five talented authors whom I would love to go to breakfast with someday.

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Me Write Funny One Day, Part 1: So Long and Thanks For All the Frogs

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Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.  –E.B. White

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 So . . . let’s kill some frogs, shall we?

In my last post I explored the phenomenon of the reluctant reader, concluding that both graphic novel formats and humor can be key to ditching the X Box in favor of a book.  Not every writer can whip out a graphic novel, but most of us can make our writing funnier.  In the next two posts, I’ll talk about what makes writing funny, how to get more (but not too much) funny into your writing, and how to identify books for middle grade readers that don’t equate funny with the words “fart” and “butt.”   (Am I right, weary parent?)

 It’s All About That Layering  

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, good humorous fiction is a chuckle wrapped in a guffaw inside a knowing smile.  By that I mean that, while Meghan Trainor may be all about that bass, true humorous fiction is all about that layering. Some jokes take a full chapter to develop, some take several chapters, and some even take the whole book.  In this post we’ll focus on the simplest layer, the thin veneer, if you will, of humor: the famous (and infamous) one-liner.

Did you hear the one about the one-liner?  (. . . it felt all a-groan)

One-liners are quick, one-dimensional jokes most anyone can write now and then.  Part of the reason they are so easy to write is that there are a myriad of forms to choose from. Here are some common categories along with examples from my novels Kibble Talk and Dog Goner (from my ongoing Kibble Talk series).

 1. EXAGGERATION.        Zach is so thin and bony he could hoola hoop with a Cheerio.

 I do a lot of exaggerating in my novels and it can be a blast to write—I just let my mind spiral out in ever more ridiculous circles until I hit the right image.  But two caveats.

First, it is easy to be overly cruel.  If you are writing for children, a little wincing on the part of your readers is okay as long as it’s only a tiny little wince and it’s accompanied by a chuckle.  If you’re writing for adults, you can go for the gut punch, but again, there must be a correspondingly impactful laugh.

Second, if you are writing in first person dialogue, make sure your language conforms to the way your character (in terms of age, education, etc.) would speak and think about the world.  In the example above, a nine year old is describing her best friend’s super skinny older brother. Your average nine year old is familiar with both hoola hooping and Cheerios cereal. On the other hand, your average nine-year-old would not be so familiar (one hopes) with someone being so skinny he could fit into the barrel of a 9-gage shotgun.

Here’s a few more examples of exaggeration from my writing:

  • His face was kind of pointy, with eyes so small it looked like they might disappear the next time he blinked.
  • That lady could talk the ears off a field of corn.
  • Dinky prancing is worse than a hip-hopping hippo.

2. SURPRISE:        “I am a humble man and I will shout that from the mountaintops,” Mr. Higginbotham said.

Here the reader anticipates that the last half of the sentence will reinforce the message given in the first half, but instead, it entirely contradicts it. This type of one-liner is perfect for delineating a ridiculous character—one who, like Mr. Higginbotham, is oblivious to his own contradictions.  It is funny to your audience because they do see the contradiction.

3. Set up a funny visual. (Here Tawny is describing her dog to us for the very first time.  The actual one-liner is the last sentence, but you need the lead-up for it to make sense.)

Dinky is huge. He is a Great Dane and an especially great one at that. He weighs more than my dad and is taller than my dad when they are both down on all fours. His undersides are the color of whipped cream, his back, legs and head are caramel, and his face and ears are chocolate brown.  I like to think he’s the world’s largest ice cream sundae! 

 I like this visual in particular because it explains a great deal more than just Dinky’s size and coloring.  Without her coming out and telling us, it provides an immediate sense of Tawny’s feelings for her dog.  Using those same exact colors, she could have compared him to a military tank in desert camouflage.  Instead, he is every child’s dream—an enormous sweet treat.

4. PHRASE TWIST:  Jenny has a way with words, and by that I mean that when she is using words, people get out of her way.

I use this style of one-liner the least in my fiction because a) the jokes tend to be formulaic and can come off as wooden, and b) your audience must be familiar with the original phrase and I can’t be as sure of that with children.  But if cleverly done, they are very memorable because the reader already knows the original line.

5. BODY HUMOR:

This isn’t so much a category as a caveat. In all of these one-liner formats, body humor is always an option.  Both kids and adults (you know who you are!) DO think butts and farts are funny. But if you want your books to be enjoyed by all ages, as I do, you will want to limit them. The Kibble Talk series is certainly not immune to body part and body effluence jokes. After all, these are talking dog books, and dogs aren’t exactly shy about their bodies.  But I use them sparingly, and to even things out, I add in plenty of one-liners that only adult readers are likely to get, such as a math teacher talking about the finer points of isosceles triangles, how table manners are genetically determined, and even references to The Fonz and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Rotten Tomato Blaster is No Laughing Matter

The challenge when it comes to one-liners is not in the writing, but in deciding where, when, and how much to use them. The well-placed one liner in an otherwise serious book (mystery, crime, romance, etc.) will endear your readers to you, especially when it arrives like a lifeline just after an emotionally fraught moment. But what do you do when your whole genre is humor?  One thing you don’t do is rely so heavily on one-liners that they are essentially the only layer of humor in the book.

Sadly, I see this most often in children’s humorous fiction. Wanting to please her audience, the writer thinks to herself: “Children, and especially boys, like jokes, so all I need to do is write a lot of them and they will love my books.”  Sigh.

frog not amused

When that happens, the book becomes a series of throwaway lines and personal slams drowning in a soup of endless whining and negativity, very much like this sentence. The first few quips may be entertaining, but after a short while of having to react to them over and over again, the reader feels as if he or she is in a batting cage at the receiving end of a pitching machine well stocked with rotten tomatoes. Splat! Splat! Make it stop!  Splat!

Of course, the real problem is that with so much of the page (and so much of the writer’s mental energy) devoted to the next one-liner, there’s little room left for character development and storyline.

By all means use one-liners, but make them an occasional treat, not the main course. For true humorous fiction—satisfying humorous fiction—the funny must go wider and deeper.

The House That Funny Built

Stay tuned for my next Emblazoners post, Me Write Funny One Day Part 2, where I will share my methods for doing just that. I’ll be pulling examples from two of my favorite series (Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones and Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) as well as more from my Kibble Talk series, so it wouldn’t be the worst idea ever to rush out and read all those tomorrow, now, would it?  Just sayin. And if you can find a young person to read them with, all the better—cause just like hugs, funny is best when shared.

No frogs were harmed

How do YOU funny?
If you’re a writer, how much emphasis do you put on humor? Where do you usually use it?  If you’re a parent, how much does humor seem to matter to your young reader(s)?

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Exciting New Release!

Bk4Cover_200x300Resurrection of the Phoenix’s Grace by L. R. W. Lee

When Andy Smithson landed back home from his most recent adventure in the land of Oomaldee, little did he realize the hunt the evil King Abaddon, monarch of Oomaldee’s northern neighbor, would initiate to capture and punish him for thwarting his plans for eternal life for yet a third time. Meanwhile, when Methuselah, Andy’s amazong sword, unexpectedly extends in Mom’s hand while in Texas, something it has never done for him, it triggers more revelations about her past.

After a frustrating and, at times, terrifying year, Andy finally returns to Oomaldee and joins the healer, Hans’ quest to locate the only surviving heir to the throne of Cromlech. In the process, Andy and company discover the Giant’s Ring, the center of Cromlech’s healing powers, has been destroyed by Abaddon’s evil sorcerer. The situation grows dire when Andy finds that the phoenix who rose from that land millennia before has returned to be reborn and the evil mage has trapped her inside the decimated Ring. Without the freedom to collect the materials she needs to build a pyre, she will die. Andy knows failure is not an option for he needs a feather from this phoenix as the next ingredient to break the curse. Will Andy and his friends free the phoenix in time? Will they be able to fix the Ring and restore Cromlech’s healing powers? Will Andy collect a phoenix feather?

Purchase in Kindle and Paperback formats

The Buzz

“I really enjoyed this book! The author writes a thrilling action-adventure story that keeps you on the edge of your bean bag chair. I will admit, I stayed up late reading this book – it was that good! L. R. W. Lee has a talent for writing fantasy. The story flows well and has plenty of action to keep the reader wanting more. A great read!”                                                                                                      - Erik Weibel, This Kid Reviews Books (Erik is 14)
Erik awarded the book 5 Bookworms!

“L. R. W. Lee’s best book of the Andy Smithson series to date!”                                                                                                     - Richard Weatherly, Author

Watch L. R. W. Lee discuss Resurrection of the Phoenix’s Grace on Book Nerd Paradise on YouTube at bit.ly/1DsOOfi

SHOW vs. TELL

We’ve all been advised, many times, to “Show, don’t tell.” It’s become a repeated mantra from members of critique groups—like a broken record. Many consider it one of the most important rules of fiction. New writers are continually advised to let the reader discover what they are saying by watching the action and listening to the dialogue instead of reading a descriptive narrative.

Well, brace yourselves for this writer’s opinion. Although it’s good advice, “show, don’t tell” is not a universal truth that transcends every other rule of writing. While it is true that showing can help to instill more life into your characters and scenes, it’s not necessary to “show” all the time. Some things need to be told rather than shown. Telling provides a shortcut. It can offer a better solution for moving the reader quickly from one dramatic scene to the next, keeping the pace accelerated and holding the readers’ interest. If a writer uses showing all the time, their words can blur into monotony with the same rhythm and tone. Worse, the important parts—the dramatic parts—won’t stand out, and you will end up wearing your reader out unnecessarily.
In addition, by its very nature, showing requires more words. If you try to write a novel using only showing, it might end up being ridiculously long. In my opinion, telling is not the horrible taboo some writing instructors and critique group members claim it is. Contrary to the previous advice you’ve been given, there are many places in your novel where telling is actually more appropriate. Your objective as the writer is to find the proper balance between telling and showing. The next time you’re given the advice of “show, don’t tell” don’t blindly follow the suggestion without considering the purpose of the words in that portion of your work.

I’ll end with the advice of novelist Francine Prose: ”…the warning against telling leads to a confusion that causes novice writers to think that everything should be acted out.”

First Impressions-Book Covers

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We often say that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and I say that in the case of book cover art “words” could be changed to “readers”. With so many books available and so many thumb-sized images to sort through, one of the best ways to gain readership is to make sure that in the first seconds a reader’s eyes land on your book cover, he/she is enticed enough to peel back that cover. Book covers should hook readers much like the first lines of a book; they should entice them enough to spend additional seconds, turn those into minutes, and ultimately spend hours delving into the story behind that enticing cover.

For those authors who are also expert cover artists, I applaud your skills. It is a talent every bit as refined as authoring a book. For those of us who have no business handling this aspect of book publishing, we benefit from surrendering to the talents of such artists. I had the pleasure of meeting my cover artist through a collective that I joined in 2012. Chelsea Starling has created covers for all 3 of my books published over the past few years, and though she only creates covers for a few exclusive clients, she is also a web designer specializing in author web sites (if you are in need of a site, visit her at Starling Magic).

I had it easy from the start where my covers were concerned. I offered a few key ideas and Chelsea conjured up covers beyond my imaginings. For example, I knew that I wanted the cover for ARROW OF THE MIST to be mostly black, include thorny vines, have Lia—a teen girl with a crossbow and red hair—on one side, and a drop of blood somewhere on the other side to match the hair. That’s all I gave her to go on and she created a cover that pretty much hit the mark the very first go around. Cover number two for ARMS OF ANU had nearly the same quick and wonderful creation process AND I am thrilled to announce has just been nominated for Best Supernatural Cover at the utopYA 2015 Awards in June.

Perhaps my greatest advice to an author with regards to working with an accomplished cover artist is to remember that that person is the artist, the expert, the one with the keen eye and skill set needed for such a task. Having a voice as the author is important, but then follow that with a good measure of surrender to allow the artist’s “muse” to create that oh-so-important first impression your book deserves.

If you are in the market for an expert cover artist (or for many other experts involved in the writing and publishing process), check out Indie-Visible.  As one of the co-founders, I can attest for our PubHub feature where authors can “Build Their Publishing Teams” by utilizing a referral list of Recommended Freelancers (at least one of our crew can vouch for them!). Our goal there is to provide authors a place to find experts with skills either not contained in their own bags of tricks and/or to find experts who can take on tasks authors might simply not have time enough to accomplish on their own.

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Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. Honored titles include Tween Fantasy ARROW OF THE MIST and its sequel ARMS OF ANU, and YA Paranormal Romance HONEY QUEEN. She is also the co-founder of www.indie-visible.com. Christina enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit:

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Writing Fight Scenes: Fast and Furious

I admit it. I’m a skimmer. Show me a bloated chunk of descriptive text and my eyes glaze over. I don’t care about every detail in a room, or each step that must be performed in making a sandwich. I have a decent enough imagination. Fling what’s relevant at me and I’ll sketch out the rest. If you bog me down, I swear I’ll skim! Might even leapfrog to the good stuff (Ahhhhh, dialogue…). My request especially applies to fight scenes. Have mercy. Please be brief.

Tips for writing an exciting fight scene from an author who has the attention span of a gnat (My next blog post: Cliches: Are they really so evil?):

1. Don’t Overload

Most readers aren’t using a piece of fiction as a step-by-step guide for learning kickass Kung fu moves (They’ve got Youtube for that). So don’t be tedious. Provide the skeleton for the scene and allow the reader to fill in the meat. They won’t visualize the blow-by-blow the way you do anyway. They’ll see it the way James Cameron does. ;-)

2.   “KA-POW” And Move On

Have you ever thrown a punch? A fist comes at you fast. There’s little time to compute before impact, if you even see the blow coming. This is the feel you want to create in your writing. Pulses will race, if you keep your sentences succinct. Write them like a wallop. Fast and furious. Choose powerful verbs and leave frilly adverbs be. They’ll only drag the action down.

3.  It’s More Than A Fight

Battles need to amount to more than busted noses and kicked in teeth. The fight should reveal the inner workings of your characters— the good, the bad, and the ugly. For example, in the Cassidy Jones Adventure series, violence brings out “the beast” in my teenage mutant, Cassidy Jones. As she is pummeling her opponent, she is also fighting her feral side, trying not to cross the line. Sometimes she wins, sometimes the beast does, and sometimes Cassidy capitulates. Her “partner-in-crime,” Emery Phillips, displays no moral conflict in the midst of combat. A means-to-an-end sort of fella, he does what has to be done, calmly and efficiently. There are times I suspect ice runs through that boy’s veins. I want the reader to feel the same uncertainty.

4. Get Visceral

The whole smell-sound-taste-touch thing— yeah, do that. It doesn’t take much to awaken the senses. Cartilage snapping, knuckles cracking, blood rushing, heart pounding, sweat flying, the smell of BO, the taste of vomit— all good sensory stuff. First and foremost, make your readers care. Insert the reader into your character’s skin, or else they won’t give a hoot what you do to the poor bloke. So get visceral. Make your readers feel what your characters feel.

5. Learn From The Experts (And The Self-Proclaimed Ones)

If you aren’t an accomplished black belt like I am (in the art of donkey dust), Youtube can prove to be an invaluable resource. Watch fight matches, lots of them, and take notes. I even watch instructional videos so I can somewhat understand how to perform and counteract specific moves. I won’t bore readers with foot placement and whatnot, but it helps me to know execution in order to choreograph a “realistic” fight scene. Then I run my realistic fight scene by my sister who is an accomplished black belt. If I get a thumbs-up that the scene is plausible (in the implausible world of superheroes), then it’s a wrap.

I hope this has been helpful. It has been for me. The entire time writing this post I’ve been dying to read over the fight scene I finished last night. I suspect there’s an adverb or two that needs to be demolished. There always is!

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Elise.Stokes1.crop5x7.0045Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret FormulaCassidy Jones and Vulcan’s GiftCassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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Kids’ Books for Readers of All Ages

The vast majority of my readers are adults… even though I write middle grade and young adult stories. Why are readers well over the age when books are assigned in school drawn to these stories? Fast pacing. Great, colorful characters. Action without horrific bloodshed. Romance without too much in the sexytimes department. These stories are filled with what I call “good, old-fashioned storytelling.” It’s no surprise to me that adults love them!

If you like faeries and magick and all things YA Fantasy…

Right now, you can pick up a raft of clean fun in the Crossing Worlds YA Fantasy StoryBundle – it has my MG story Faery Swap (a Prince and the Pauper meets Warrior Faeries tale) along with nine other novels: 

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(bundle ends Friday 4/17!)

Pay what you like and get an awesome StoryBundle of 10 ebooks!

If you like robots and creativity and all things YA Science Fiction…

One knock against YA and younger stories is that they don’t tackle serious topics. They’re “fluff” reading. This is usually said by people who don’t actually read YA or MG. My latest YA novel tackles a future world where most of humanity has ascended into a god-like human/robot hybrids with vastly superior intelligence, leaving behind a few legacy humans who are preserved for their genetic diversity. Here’s what reviewers are saying about it:

“Science fiction with philosophical depth.”

“Palpable intelligent fiction at its best, for any age reader.”

“The Legacy Human has it all: memorable characters with agency, great villains, impossible odds, and tremendous world-building… I’d even go so far as to compare it favorably to DUNE, my favorite sci-fi novel of all time.”

Not exactly “fluff.” :) This is actually what I love about YA – it can dive deep into complex world-building without being dragged down by a lot of grown-up angst. Everything is fresh and new (and terrifying and dangerous) for our young protagonists. I think the enduring popularity of YA is because it has a sense of wonder that properly belongs to an age where every 30 seconds some new technology pops up to change our lives.

I hope you’ll dip into the YA pool and give some of these stories a try!

Susan Kaye Quinn, Speculative Fiction Author

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, and the Debt Collector serial, as well as other speculative fiction novels and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Synchronic anthology, the Telepath Chronicles, the AI Chronicles, and has been optioned for Virtual Reality by Immersive Entertainment. Former rocket scientist, now she invents mind powers, dabbles in steampunk, and dreams of the Singularity. Mostly she sits around in her PJs in awe that she gets to write full time.

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My latest…

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“Hunger Games meets I-Robot”

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What would you give to live forever? Or save your mother’s life?”

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

When immortality is the prize, winning the Game is all that matters.

The Legacy Human is the first in Susan Kaye Quinn’s new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul in a post-Singularity world… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.

What to Do When Your Tween Is in a Hurry to Grow Up

No, really. What do you do when your tween wants to read/watch/play things that are way too “old” for them? Because this is something I’m constantly struggling with my 14 1/2 year-old boys.

“All” of their friends are watching Walking Dead. “All” of them are reading and watching The Game of Thrones. And I see what videos and memes friends are posting to my boys’ Facebook timelines, and, well, they’re definitely pushing the envelope in my opinion.

My answer is always “no” when Charlie asks for these things, but I also want to encourage him to read when he asks for a BOOK. (Yay! Books!) So far the best solution was for him to read the The Enemy series by Charlie Higson.

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We don’t allow our boys to ingest media that’s got language, sex or is generally profane. But, they are also their own people and are surrounded by friends who don’t necessarily live by the same rules. I think my guys are generally respectful of our family’s standards, but the truth is–they are their own people. We can control the media in our own home, but we can’t control what sort of things they partake of when they’re out in the world.

The Enemy series was a good consolation for Charlie. He also enjoyed The Hunger Games series, and Divergent (but not the rest of the series).

It’s hard seeing your kids go from “little” to “big” where you can’t directly control what they read or watch!

So what’s your solution? What do you do to help your children bridge that scary chasm between child and adult?

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Alex 1 (2)Alex Banks likes to say she holds a black belt in awesome since the only kind of kicking-butt she does is on paper. She lives in Utah with her kickin’ husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, one samurai dog and four zen turtles.

Alex writes Young Adult and New Adult fiction (suitable for readers over fourteen) under the name Ali Cross.
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Crowd Sourced Writing and Fan Fiction

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I recently began frequenting a crowd-sourced writing website called Skrawl.com. And I have to say I’m having a lot of fun.  Skrawl is set up for you to start a new story or to add to someone else’s story. Stories can be original fiction, non-fiction discussions, or fan fiction.

What makes it so much fun is that Skrawl has a competitive edge to it. When you add to someone’s story everyone in the community gets a chance to vote for your “bit” against anyone else who posted a “bit” for the same storyline. Points are awarded each time you post or vote and you can earn even more points if your “bit” wins.

There’s a social aspect to it too, you can comment on the stories like you would on sites like Facebook.

It’s a great way for me to play with ideas and see where other people take them.

One of my favorite stories posted by Greg Fishbone is a story called Trek Elementary. Trek Elementary is an alternate universe where Kirk, Spock and the gang are children and have created their own group called the Enterprise gang. They sometimes have run-ins with another gang on the block who call themselves the Klingons.

The story started with the kids trying to find a way to get candy from the candy store. Simple enough, but the next writer added the Klingons, then Jimmy Kirk got into trouble, etc. etc.  As you can imagine stories can go anywhere and they often do!

If  you have moment and want to read some short stories, or better yet, if you’d like to play along, join some of us over at Skrawl.com.  I currently have a few fan-fictions running, Divergent, Maleficent and Percy Jackson. Oh, and I just started a new adventure for Big Hero 6! Search for me, Ansha Kotyk, using the magnifying glass icon, I’d love to see you, and read your stories!!

AnshaKotyk Ansha Kotyk writes adventure stories for boys and girls. Check out Gangsterland, the story of Jonathan, who falls into a magical comic book and has to draw his way out.